New fields approved for John Hunt Park - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New fields approved for John Hunt Park

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The plan would also erase the area's only facility for autocross racing. The plan would also erase the area's only facility for autocross racing.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Plans for a grand new park for the city of Huntsville are getting a chilly reception from a community that's feeling left out or kicked out.

Tuesday night, the Huntsville Planning Commission approved a proposal to remake John Hunt Park with new athletic fields, skating rinks, tennis courts, even an amphitheatre, but the plan would also erase the area's only facility for autocross racing.

Tennessee Valley auto clubs feel like they're being shoved aside again, just like they were when the drag strip in Harvest was forced to cut its operations way back.

Club members say the park plan sounds great, except for the part about forcing them out.

"It's a common, engineer kind of sport and it cuts across all different economic stratums," said John Allen with the Twickenham Auto Club.

Autocross enthusiasts admit theirs is a lesser known sport in the Tennessee Valley, but this avid community has been faithfully racing the cones and the clock at John Hunt Park since the 1960s.

"One of the things that anchors me to this area is the automotive community that we have here," said Samir Darji, founder of HuntsvilleCarScene.com.

And a passionate corps of them asked the city to reconsider the part of the John Hunt Park redesign which would take out the old airport runway, which has been their course.

Planners acknowledge the autocross community is not one they were trying to accommodate because it takes up too much space.

"Traditionally, motorsports, while they enjoy a significant history here in the South, they have been looked down upon," said Scott Rich with the Twickenham Auto Club.

The Huntsville Planning Commission approved the plan for the park, but Mayor Tommy Battle said there's still plenty of time to find some way, somewhere for the autocross races to keep rolling.

"Our sports commission and parks and recreation is going to be working with them to see what we can do, but the total focus right now is getting started on our plan," he said.

"Even if things move forward, the schedule seems that we may have another two seasons left," said Rich.

Battle said he's hopeful a new venue for the autocross clubs can be found, but he also points out that any changes in the north end of the park where they hold their events are at least five years off.

The autocross racers are planning to hit their track again on the old airfield in two weeks.

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